Vintage Reviews: Buff Book New Car Model Year Issues – Let’s Look Back To The Sevens


With Labor Day 2016 in our rear view mirrors and summer slipping into fall, ’tis the season for transitions.  While the end of long, lazy days and the threat of colder weather can be downers, for car enthusiasts like us, one fall changeover that’s always enjoyable is the arrival of the new model year cars.  The October issues of buff books are just now showcasing the 2017s, so the ritual is still alive and kicking, albeit less dramatic, since new model year products now hit the market whenever they are ready, rather than being held until the “official” fall new model year introduction season.  But that wasn’t always the case: for decades the new model year changeover was filled with excitement and energy.  So let’s take a look back at some of those buff book announcement issues of yesteryear!  Over the next five weeks, I’ll be posting examples of “Gala New Car Issues” for model years ending with “7.”


In the 1950s, excitement around the arrival of new automotive model years was tremendous.  Annual makeovers were comprehensive, and many Americans were delighted to track the changes.  Motor Trend naturally offered plenty of coverage and sneak peeks at coming 1957 models as fall 1956 got underway, but they saved their most comprehensive new car issue until the January 1957 cover date.  That issue, which came out in early December 1956, was timed to coincide with the 42nd Annual National Motor Show, which opened in the New York Coliseum on December 8, 1956.


For the 1967 model year, Motor Trend showcased the new products by category in the November 1966 issue.  Offerings from every U.S. maker were showcased for Compacts, Intermediates, Full Size and Luxury and the booming new Specialty category that included Personal Luxury cars and Pony cars.  Advertising was also abundant, making this the thickest Motor Trend of the year.


1977 was a monumental year, as “downsizing” firmly took hold.  Longer, lower and wider was out; trimmer, more efficient designs were in.  Sharp-eyed readers will note that the October issue of Motor Trend featured all the new cars from GM, Chrysler and AMC–but not Ford.  However, fear not, Blue-Oval fans, as FoMoCo offerings were highlighted in Motor Trend’s September issue (I’ll post those pages too).  Perhaps Dearborn made a deal with Petersen Publishing to get the advance treatment in order to avoid going head-to-head with the dramatic new GM Full Size cars.


In the 1980s, my absolute favorite of all the October new car launch issues was Car and Driver.  Their annual “Charting The Changes” article gave a concise–and often witty–overview of the latest from Detroit.  C&D also served up “Short Take” drive reports on key new products, and engineering advances (or lack thereof) were also fully covered.


Automobile Magazine hit its stride the 1990s, as David E. Davis and his crew polished their writing style and offered plenty of intelligent and tongue-in-cheek commentary.  SUVs were now featured along with cars, as each manufacturers offerings were dissected, along with some very pointed commentary on the health and focus of the parent companies.

Whew!  This will be a lot of content–5 weeks worth–but hopefully all will enjoy tracking the changes over the decades.  So put on your seatbelt and get ready to go back to 1957, starting tomorrow.  Each day will have a post (or two) will lots of new car information from that year.  And we’ll wrap up each week with a QOTD: What New 19×7 Car Would You Have Bought?  So as you read through the articles, be sure to pick your favorite and tell us about it on Friday.